'Incredible': Astronomers hail first images of asteroid impact


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The question is not whether the object's trajectory has been changed. If the laws of physics still apply, then yes, its trajectory has changed. The real question is by how much it has changed. In the future, how big of an impactor will we want to use, what shape should the impactor have, what speed will we want it to impact with, at what angle to the object's trajectory do we want the impactor to hit, and at what point in the object's orbit do we need to get involved, so as to use the minimal amount of resources, with the maximum results?

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“ Astronomers have hailed this early footage of the first time humanity deliberately smashed a spacecraft into an asteroid, saying it looks like it did a "lot of damage".

That would be good news, because NASA's Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) impactor struck the asteroid Dimorphos at 23,500 kilometers per hour on Monday night with the goal of deflecting its trajectory.

While Dimorphos is 11 million kilometers away and poses no threat to Earth, it is being used as a historic test run so the world can be ready to defend itself if a future astroid heads Earth's way.

After the impact, ground-based telescopes and the toaster-sized satellite LICIACube, which separated from DART a few weeks ago, revealed the first images of the collision.

"On the LICIACube images, the plume of what came off the surface was quite impressive," Antonella Barucci of the Paris Observatory's LESIA laboratory told AFP.

By examining the plume, "we can begin to estimate the density of the material on the surface," she said.

In the coming days and weeks astronomers around the world will work to confirm whether the asteroid's trajectory was definitively altered by the impact.

Then the European Space Agency's Hera mission will arrive at Dimorphos in 2026 to survey the surface and discover the extent of DART's impact.

Hera mission principal investigator Patrick Michel said "we are all impressed by the magnitude of the event".

"We have done a lot of damage to Dimorphos," Michel said. "We have a quantity of ejected matter that is quite incredible."

The amount of matter ripped from the asteroid will help scientists work out exactly how much its trajectory has been affected -- if at all.

"The more material is ejected, the more it deviates," said Eric Lagadec, president of the French Astronomical Society.

"So it's a pretty good sign," he added. “


Interesting (!)

Thank you for this, JT. :)

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The sheer scale of the project and how well it is developing until now is incredible, I can't imagine what will be possible in 20, 50 or 100 years into the future.

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In case anyone has forgotten, Japan landed a craft on an asteroid and returned with surface samples years ago. Much more sophisticated than smashing into something.

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It would have been interesting to see the impact of landing on such a rock, and igniting a thruster to assess the impact of that - Could we pilot an asteroid out of the way ?

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JTCToday  11:55 am JST

It would have been interesting to see the impact of landing on such a rock, and igniting a thruster to assess the impact of that - Could we pilot an asteroid out of the way ?

That depends on its size. Smaller asteroids, possibly. The bigger ones, probably not.

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@Starpunk... "get a bigger rocket then"... to give a small lateral nudge should, have the effect of adjusting the trajectory of such a rock, but this is clearly something we should test out, also, why not try a large bomb too - yeah, that does sound too Movie like, but worth trying... no ?

Most of the really large, stuff has been identified, though it's the smaller/medium stuff, that we pick up on, only with short notice that could wipe out a City or two - that's where we need to come up with a Rapid response plan. For example, say a rock was predicted to land somewhere along the 56° N line of latitude, then Moscow may show some interest...

We have lots of Nukes globally, so why not collectively put them to good use, and have a common plan. Something that could be implemented within the timeframe of a day or two... that, is actually what we need to be focusing upon.

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